Alex Rios and Jose Quintana will receive the accolades but the White Sox wouldn’t have snapped their four-game losing streak on Wednesday afternoon without the bullpen.
Although Rios’ two-run home run put the White Sox ahead of the Cleveland Indians by three and Quintana was sharp for five innings, four relievers recorded the final 12 outs to close out a 3-2 victory in front of 16,765 at U.S. Cellular Field. The combination of Nate Jones, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed allowed three base runners in four scoreless innings as the White Sox won for the fourth time in 14 tries.
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Though the credit mostly goes elsewhere, Thornton would much rather have this result compared with one that eats at him as he experienced after he took the loss on Monday.
“We got the pass grade today as a whole,” Thornton said. “We passed. That’s pretty much how it is in the bullpen.”
Starting pitchers aren’t generally prepared to leave a game when the outcome is in doubt. They prefer to clean up their own mess instead of handing it off to another pitcher.
But with runners on the corners, no outs and the White Sox ahead 3-1 in the sixth inning, Quintana knew he was right to pass the baton to Jones. Jones allowed one inherited runner to score on Mark Reynolds’ sacrifice fly but recorded six outs and left with a 3-2 lead.
Thornton then retired two outs in the eighth inning and Crain the other before Reed pitched around a two-out single in the ninth for his sixth save in six tries.
The outing lowered the bullpen’s ERA to 2.11, which is fourth in the majors.
“The situation merited to bring in a right-hander,” Quintana said through a translator. “But (Jones) came in right behind me did a great job. I have a lot of confidence in them.”
So does White Sox manager Robin Ventura.
He has an unusually deep bullpen this season and has no problem asking the group to pitch three to four innings to secure a victory.
Sure, White Sox relievers have had some struggles this season. They’ve been charged with five losses in the team’s first 20 games. But players and coaches are smart enough to know the bullpen has had few stress-free games thus far. Most of their appearances, the outcome can be determined on one pitch.
“Even though we lost a couple games late, you still believe in the bullpen and what they do,” Ventura said. “They have to have tough minds to be in the bullpen because you’re still going to come in in tough situations and have to get through it. We have the confidence in those guys.”
The team’s confidence in Quintana (2-0) continues to grow.
The left-hander retired the first nine batters he faced.
He then pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth inning when Ryan Raburn grounded into a double play. Quintana, who allowed two earned runs, four hits and walked two, faced the minimum in four of five innings before he put the first three men on in the sixth.
The White Sox gave Quintana an early lead to work with. Alejandro De Aza walked and stole second base in the first inning and Jeff Keppinger, who went 2-for-4, singled in a run.
Four innings later, Keppinger singled with one out and Rios blasted a 0-2 pitch from Zach McAllister for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead. The 374-foot drive ended an 0-for-13 stretch for Rios, who has a team-high six home runs.
But from there, the White Sox offense struggled even though Adam Dunn walked three times. The team finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven men.
The offense’s struggles were masked however by Quintana and the bullpen.
Even though Monday’s loss, when he allowed two runs and made a critical throwing error, ate at him, Thornton said he quickly dismissed his positive result Wednesday.
After all, chances are he’ll face another tight situation Thursday.
“Generally the situations we’re pitching in, we have a bad game, the team loses,” Thornton said. “We got the pass grade and you kind of feed off that and be ready to go (Thursday). It’s over for me. It doesn’t matter that I retired my two batters at all. It’s done. I’m ready to move on and prepare for tomorrow.”